Dear fellow members of the Columbia and NewYork-Presbyterian community:
The passing of Florence Irving on July 25, at the age of 98, is a great loss. She was a remarkable person of enormous accomplishment and consequence. This is a moment to reflect on the impact that a committed couple can have on our institutions and the larger world through their sustained philanthropy. Florence and her late husband, Herbert Irving, are among the most generous donors ever to support Columbia University and NewYork-Presbyterian, with the fight against cancer being their principal focus for many decades. Through their giving, they expanded our horizons and spurred us to pursue previously unthinkable goals in biomedical research and patient care.
Everyone who has visited the campus of Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center is familiar with the Irving name. The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center is a centerpiece of our shared medical campus. The Irvings’ generosity funded too many buildings, institutes, and programs to list, and, in any event, such a list could scarcely do justice to what Florence and Herbert have meant to us. We know they were particularly proud of the Irving Institute for Translational Research and the Irving Scholars Program, which facilitate biomedical advances through an interdisciplinary approach to clinical research and support the next generation of leaders in this important work.
Florence possessed a pure desire to help people by championing advances in patient care and medicine. When Herbert passed away in 2016, her tribute to their seventy-four-year marriage was to carry forward the couple’s giving and to fulfill their shared mission. Florence reveled in the stories of patients coming from around the world for treatment at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and she deeply admired the many doctors and nurses with whom she developed relationships.
Florence was blessed with a long life enriched by many interests and opportunities for her to express her talents. Chief among these was her longstanding engagement with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she was a beloved Trustee Emerita and perhaps the museum’s greatest patron of Asian art. She improved New York City and the lives of countless New Yorkers in many ways.
We loved Florence and will miss her greatly, just as we have missed Herbert. They have been dear friends and indispensable partners in building the futures of our institutions.
Lee C. Bollinger
President, Columbia University
Steven J. Corwin, M.D.
President and Chief Executive Officer, NewYork-Presbyterian
Lee Goldman, M.D.
Chief Executive, Columbia University Irving Medical Center